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Saaremaa government announces €30,000 tender to solve tapwater contamination riddle

Efforts to replace the water in the system in Kuressaare.
Efforts to replace the water in the system in Kuressaare. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Local government on Estonia's largest island Saaremaa is issuing a tender aimed at finding out out once and for all the causes of drinking water contamination which has dogged Kuressaare, the island's capital, since last spring.

The tender will be worth €30,000.

Deputy Saaremaa Mayor Liis Lepik told ERR that the municipality wants to obtain an expert assessment, as it is still not known what caused the e.coli pollution which affected tap water in Kuressaare from last May.

Lepik, a number of measures have been put in place before this is known, to avoid a repeat of the issue.

"[Water provider] Kuressaare Veevärk has significantly improved its quality control system, including increasing the regularity and volume of water sampling," Lepik said.

"Furthermore, a UV device has been installed at the water treatment plant, which cleans the water from intake to the Kuressaare town waterworks. In addition, the water company has reviewed and made changes to its construction processes. For example, when the routes of water pipes sewage pipes intersect, further checks are required, to ensure pipelines were built according to the original plans," she went on.

The expert assessment should also provide suggestions on how to make the water quality control systems even more efficient, she added.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) detected two e.coli outbreaks in May and again in September. Upon further inspection, contamination was also found in private well systems, within a one-kilometer radius of Kuressaare.

Other measures put in place initially included a recommendation to boil all tap water before use, while the municipality provided water tanks in the town which could be used by the public for free. Chlorine was also added to the water supply.

Much of the remainder of Saaremaa's populace outside the Kuressaare area obtains its drinking water from pumped wells.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Andrew Whyte

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